If you are normally a hard gainer, whose goals revolve around filling out t-shirts or yoga pants, then this is an especially difficult time for you. If you were like the majority of the population who was a day or week late to Amazon, Rogue or Dick’s Sporting Goods, you’re most likely left with a Home Gym set up that doesn’t come close to including the normal weights you would use at the gym.
Maybe you have a single kettle bell, some bands, or a pair of light dumbbells- whatever you currently have access to, it most likely doesn’t compare to the variety of weights or machines you’re accustomed to using in a commercial gym. This is going to make it difficult to continue with your goal of strength, power or muscle gains.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do, is accept the following:
Temper your goals to align with your current situation.
In other words, if your goal was to hit a PR in Squats or Bench Press by June 1st, understand that this is most likely no longer a reality. Instead, focus instead on goals such as:
- Logging quality workouts daily that elevate your heart rate
- Perfecting basic body weight moves
- Smooth movement patterns
- Enhancing your mobility and flexibility
- Adding an unfamiliar component to your workout- such as cardio
Unfortunately, 5 x 5 rep schemes just won’t work when you only have light weights to deal with. Therefore, you must display a level of adaptability with your goals and adjust to your own individual scenario. Understand that this period of social distancing will most likely result in [hopefully] maintaining the “gains” you’ve made in previous months or years in the gym- but you can also use this time away from the gym as a way to reinvent yourself by adding in new components that will benefit your future workouts.
3- C’s to Maximizing a Quarantine Workout- Circuits/Complexes/Combo Moves
#1 Circuit Training Will Make Up for Missed Intensity
If you’re not accustomed to circuit training, you may think it’s “stupid” or “only for people who are trying to be skinny.” Unfortunately, this is a very short-sighted and close-minded opinion on a style of exercising that will automatically give you intensity. With your normal intensity most likely lacking – due to not having access to heavy dumbbells, barbells or machines- it is imperative to figure out ways to mimic your normal workout’s intensity. Otherwise, you will certainly not make progress in any area, and you’ll also most likely lose interest in home workouts altogether because your workouts just won’t have the normal challenge that you’re accustomed to.
Why does circuit training possess the potential to make up for missing intensity? Because you’re quickly moving from one move to another with varying amounts of rest time in between. You’ll also be able to pre-fatigue muscles and get them working much harder than if you were to just do straight sets or traditional super-sets. By moving quickly through the workout, you’re going to be elevating your heart rate, and increasing the metabolic demands placed on your body.
The circuits you create don’t have to be full body- even though they possess a great option to alternate between upper and lower body throughout the sequence. You can do upper body circuits, lower body circuits or core circuits- each of these will maximize the minimal equipment and space you have access to.
In order to create your own circuit, you first need to identify what equipment you have. Is it just going to be bodyweight? Or do you have a few sets of dumbbells? Next, you have to determine how long you want the circuit to be (in terms of number of exercises). Anywhere between 4 and 10 exercises will provide you with a circuit that should match your ability. Then, you need to figure out your variables- specifically your work and rest time.
When performing circuit style training, the best results are usually seen when timing yourself and trying to perform as many quality reps as possible in an allotted time. These timed sets can be anywhere from 20-40 seconds long- depending on ability and the complexity of the moves. If you’re alternating between an upper body move and a lower body move, then your rest time can be minimal to nothing. However, if you’re doing high intensity, full body moves (such as a kettle bell swing, medicine ball slam, squat jumps) then you’ll want to lean more towards a 2:1 work: rest ratio. Finally, determine how many sets you want to do. Depending on time constraints, and how many exercises you’ve included, I’d recommend between 3 and 5 rounds to start.
Sample Full-Body Circuit (no weights):
- Body Weight Squats
- Push-Up Position Shoulder Taps
- Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Straight Bear Crawl
- Alternating Front Lunge
- Lateral Bear Crawl
- Alternating Lateral Lunge
- RKC Front Plank
Sample Upper Body Circuit (Light Weights):
- Single Arm Glute Bridge Chest Press
- RDL Position Single Arm Row (Right)
- Single Arm Glute Bridge Chest Press
- RDL Position Single Arm Row (Left)
- DB Shoulder Press
- DB Hammer Curls
- DB Lateral Raise
- Glute Bridge DB Skull Crushers
Sample Lower Body Circuit (Light Weights):
- KB Goblet Squats
- Single Arm Single Leg KB RDL
- KB Reverse Lunge (left side only)
- Single Arm Single Leg KB RDL
- KB Reverse Lunge (right side only)
- KB Alternating Lateral Lunge
- KB Glute Bridge
- Wall Sit
Sample Core Circuit (Body Weight)
- RKC Plank
- Reverse Crunch
- Straight Leg Toe Touches
- Side Plank Hip Drops (Left)
- Push-Up Position Knee to Opposite Elbow
- Side Plank Hip Drops (Right)
#2 Use Complexes to Maintain Strength Levels and Intensity
The next step on the difficulty spectrum would be integrating complexes in your home training. Complexes can be done with either dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or even body weight. For this purpose, though I’m going to focus on complexes that can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. The idea behind performing a true “complex” is performing 3-6 strength moves and not putting the weight down until the set is complete. This is an off-shoot of circuit training but lends more towards strength training and possesses even greater metabolic potential- due to the ‘heavier weight’ being moved.
Complexes can be organized a few different ways as well. They can focus on one muscle group, or they can be full body. It’s completely up to you and how you’ve organized your own training split.
Not everyone will have the potential to do complexes right now, due to the variation in exercise equipment you currently have access to. If you do have some sort of external weights though, consider integrating complexes into your daily workouts because they will exponentially increase the difficulty of your workout!
Challenge yourself to not put the barbell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.
Dumbbell Full Body Complex
Challenge yourself to not put the dumbbell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.
- DB Goblet Squats
- Single Arm DB Shoulder Press (switch arms each set)
- DB Goblet Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Split Stance Single Arm DB Row (switch arms each set)
Kettle Bell Complex
Challenge yourself to not put the kettlebell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.
- KB Swing
- KB Single Arm Shoulder Press (switch arms each set)
- KB Goblet Squat
- Single Arm KB Row (switch arms each set)
- KB Suit Case Hold Reverse Lunge (switch legs each set)
#3 Combo Moves to Create Intensity
I’m notoriously leery of “combo moves” under normal circumstances. My main reason for this is because combination moves, generally mean you’re short changing yourself in one of the moves. However, due to the fact that these are extremely abnormal circumstances, you have to find ways to create intensity with your workouts- and integrating safe combo moves are a great way.
A combination move, is when you take 2 strength moves that would normally be done alone, and combined them into one move. This is extremely beneficial right now, because most people don’t have access to heavy weights. Combo moves will provide a method to make a pair of 15’s or 20’s feel significantly heavier.
I implore you though, when performing combination moves, be safe. If the weight feels like it’s too much for a move, shut it down and do something different. If you continue to practice perfect form with the optimal weight, combination moves will provide a tremendous boost to your workouts as well- especially by adding them into a circuit!
Lower Body Combo Moves
Upper Body Combo Moves
Full Body Combo Moves
While the training methods I’ve outlined above, may not fully align with your normal goals, they will provide the intensity that your current home workouts are lacking. By implementing these methods you will be able to maintain your strength levels and stay afloat during this time away from your full gym arsenal.
In order to be successful though, you must leave your ego at the door. If you’re someone who says “I only strength train, I never do cardio…” But you also only have access to 10 LB dumbbells right now, then your workouts are going to suffer tremendously. It’s perfectly fine to ditch every one of these training methods as soon as the gym lights come back on, however, in this moment these methods will allow you to maintain high levels of workout intensity with sub-maximal weights.
When performing any of these methods though, listen to your body. If something feels easy continue to tweak variables. Consider increasing the reps, the work time or decrease the rest time. Conversely, if something feels overly challenging, make the necessary adjustments so you’re still performing your workouts safely and with anatomical integrity.
Keep in mind, just because it’s “lighter weight” doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. Allow Circuits, Complexes and Combo moves to increase your workout intensity while always maintaining proper form! Be a “fitness chameleon” and adapt to the environment you currently have access to; this adaptability will ultimately allow for you to hit the ground running with your fitness goals when society returns to normal.
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.